Ohioans are fortunate to live in a place with rich, lush soil. Ideal for growing things, like our beloved tomato. The only problem is, the growing season is limited, so for most of the year we have to buy tomatoes that have been shipped in from, well, we don’t really know. But we do know that they are bred to last longer than a season of American Idol. The downside to this longevity is that they taste like anything but a tomato. Seriously. Try doing a blind taste test. That is if you have a knife that is sharp enough to pierce the skin. I haven’t seen skin that thick since I vacationed in Florida and saw the sun-baked octogenarians.
Most of us don’t even bother with the store-bought variety, but rather hold out for Ohio Tomato Season which starts roughly around the first of July. Many of us grow our own tomatoes and for a brief, glorious few weeks, we are not beholden to the local stores for this little slice of heaven.
Then there are people like me.
My backyard butts up to a cemetery and let me tell you; Animal Kingdom has got nothing on this place. Deer and groundhogs and rabbits. Oh my! I tried growing tomatoes, but the animals ravaged them. When the First Tomato of the Season began to turn that delicious shade of red, an animal of some kind actually took a bite out of it and left the rest on the ground! Sort of how family members (you know who you are) take one bite out of one of the assorted chocolates, then put it back in the box. I was so desperate for a garden-fresh tomato that I actually considered eating around the chewed part. “How dirty could a deer’s lips be?” I rationalized. I did extensive internet research about how to keep animals from eating your tomatoes and it turns out that a good fence does the trick. Using tools and building stuff does not fit in with my life philosophy of “Why break a nail? Why crack a sweat?”
So, my tomato farming endeavor ended as abruptly as it started.
I figured all was not lost. Just think of all the other people that grow tomatoes. They’ll be eager to share, right? RIGHT?
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the protocol of Ohio Homegrown Tomato Season, let me lay it out for you. It comes in three stages:
- STAGE ONE: Like proud grandparents, when the tomatoes start to appear on the vine, people are so proud of their crops they start posting pictures of them on Facebook. When you run into these people around town and casually inquire about their tomato crop, they will get a gleam in their eye and talk about the First Tomato of the Season like they are in possession of the Hope Diamond. But as your interest grows, they begin to get suspicious and wonder if you have more sinister motives, like wanting them to share. You’d have better luck getting a hold of the REAL Hope Diamond than prying a tomato out of these people in Stage One.
- STAGE TWO: At this point, tomatoes are growing so fast, they are practically jumping off the vine. Your friends are now happy to share the wealth. Well, a little anyway. They’ll bring you a plastic grocery bag with a big, warm smile and a hearty, “There ya go!” Okay, so there’s only one tomato in the bag, at least they’re finally loosening their death grip on their crops. And I get to enjoy my first BLT of the season. Life is good.
- STAGE THREE: You run into those same friends who were so stingy a month ago and their eyes are glazed over and their red-stained mouths are lined with blisters from the acid overdose. They cringe at the mere mention of the word “tomato.” They tell how they have been desperately seeking a class in canning. Anonymous bags of tomatoes start showing up on your porch. Unlike their store-bought sisters, these tomatoes have the longevity of a Mayfly. They will go from “edible” to “rotten” in about three seconds so now YOU are frantically looking for a canning class.
Ah, Ohio. We love our tomatoes. Or YOUR tomatoes. That is if you loosen the death grip. I mean, really.Tags: Tomatoes